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When It Comes to Climate Change, Activists Need to Get Real

23 May 2022

When It Comes to Climate Change, Activists Need to Get Real

APB speaker Vaclav Smil, a renowned expert on energy, environment, food and technical advances, was recently featured in The New York Times Magazine. The Q&A article focused on Smil’s view on climate change and how climate activists need “to get real.” 

Smil argues that the goal set at last fall’s 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 is unrealistic.

“This is undoable because there’s just eight years left, and emissions are still rising,” Smil says in the article. “People don’t appreciate the magnitude of the task and are setting up artificial deadlines which are unrealistic.” 

Smil says he’s not against setting goals but they need to be realistic. “It’s misleading and doesn’t serve any use because we will not achieve it, and then people say, ‘What’s the point?’” he says. “I’m all for goals but for strict realism in setting them.” 

Even though this goal may be unattainable, Smil insists hope is not lost. “People have to realize that this problem is unprecedented because of the numbers—billions of everything—and the pressure of acting rapidly as we neveracted before,” he says. “This doesn’t make it hopeless, but it makes it excruciatingly more difficult.” 

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One of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2010, Smil has spent his career exploring new ground in the fields of energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment and public policy.   

Publishing 45 books and nearly 500 papers, many of which Bill Gates mentions in his blog and has recommended to audiences for many years, Smil has revolutionized the way the world thinks about its future energy and food needs. In addition to his published research, he has also worked as a consultant for many U.S., EU and international institutions.  

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